New Store Opens in Oakland Completely Lambasting Consumerism
A very popular new store opened in Oakland this week, but the goods stocked on the shelves are not quite what you’d expect. Val-U-Mart is a new interactive art installation at Pro Arts Gallery offering a playful exploration of money, values, and consumerism. Seventy-five Bay Area artists came together to make this wondrous cultural middle-finger, filling the place with satirical products and performances. And it appears they’re on to something: All the ticketed shows of this 10 day pop-up sold out before the installation even opened. Luckily there are non-ticketed days of the installation where you see the gallery show and some of the interactive elements as well.
As the press release sent to me this morning mentions:
A can of “Recruiter” plays on unsolicited “spam” email from job placement recruiters – and next to it a letter from Spam’s parent company attempting to dissuade the artist from using their trademarked color combinations.
Instead of the traditional ATM machine, an Emotional-Labor Transaction Machine (ETM) asks shoppers to dispense emotional labor.
In the refrigerated section? A “Choke-a-Cola” installation, complete with a gutted stuffed polar bear whose insides are full of plastic bottles – highlighting the fact that polar bears now have diets of up to 25% plastic.
Shoppers who enter can meet Aya, Val-U-Mart’s artificial intelligence, who will learn your values, then personalize prices on select products.
Val-U-Mart is produced by Bay Area immersive artists Chris Swimmer, Ad Naka, and Jen Johnson, who specialize in making interactive art with social commentary. Past projects of theirs include satirical company MySight and collaborative music video Strangetown USA.
“Money is an inescapable part of our culture,” says co-producer Jen Johnson. “It gets so deeply inside our psyche that it can’t be separated from who we are and how we think. Money destroys relationships, turns passions into ‘side-hustles’, and impacts our sense of self-worth.”
Pop by and check it out!